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Sumter board of commissioners meet for June sessions

By MICHAEL MURRAY
michael.murray@americustimesrecorder.com
www.americustimesrecorder.com

AMERICUS – The Sumter County Board of Commissioners met June 14 at the Sumter County Courthouse for their monthly work session before re-convening for the board’s regular monthly meeting on June 21. Prior to the board’s regular meeting, a special meeting was called to discuss and finalize the county’s budget for fiscal year 2016-17.
This was later approved during the regular meeting, with a budget of $1,440,447 being appropriated for the fire funs and a budget of $1,250,100 being appropriated for the solid waste fund.
The General Fund Expenditures and revenues budgets for fiscal year 2016-17 were also approved, as was the budget relating to special revenue, capital budget funds, and other projects.
At the regular meeting, the board approved a rezoning request from William and Amy Briscoe, of Americus, to change the zoning of a 47.71-acre plot at 1503 U.S. Highway 280 West, Plains, from residential to commercial. The property will house a sawmill.
Col. Eric Bryant, chief deputy of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, asked the board to approve a preliminary application for a federal grant in the amount of $375,000 (with the county matching 25 percent of that funding) that would, potentially, pay for three correctional officers to join the force for a three-year period. If the application is ultimately accepted by the state, the grant would be awarded under the condition that the department keep the officers on staff for an additional two years after the three-year period has passed. It was determined that, if the grant is awarded, it would cost the county $336,859 over a five-year period to provide 25 percent of the grant funds and pay the officers’ salaries for the additional two years. The preliminary application was approved after Bryant assured the board that, if the county’s portion of the funds are found to be unavailable, the application can be withdrawn.
Ed Weckwert, of Waterfront Drive, addressed the board with concerns about the condition of various public parks around Americus, stating that he has observed high levels of trash and facilities in disrepair around Boone Park in Americus, and other locations.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in all my life,” Weckwert stated. “We can’t secure or protect property that the county owns. I don’t know what can be done about it … Something’s got to change.”
Later in the meeting, Sumter County Parks & Recreation Department director, Tim Estes, addressed Weckwert’s concerns, stating that the department is currently advertising an opening for a full-time groundskeeper position which, when filled, will help to alleviate the situation.
Estes also said that the department’s current staff are making every effort to keep the grounds at Boone Park clean and that the park is supposed to be off-limits to the public each night.
Commissioner George Torbert said that he would like to see police officers or sheriff’s deputies patrol the park at night to ensure that patrons aren’t sneaking in. Board chairman, Randy Howard, asked Commissioner Thomas Jordan and County Administrator Bill Twomey to meet with Estes and discuss the situation so that they can present a report to the commissioners  in July.
The board discussed the approval of a contract with the Public Defender’s Office. After discussing the possibility of requiring a small fee to help cover courtroom costs, the board tabled the discussion until the July meeting.
The board discussed a possible appointment to the Sumter County Library Board, to replace Sharon L. Tarver, as well as a possible appointment to the Americus- Sumter County Tourism Council. The board also discussed an appointment to the Americus-Sumter County Livestock Authority (ASCLA), to replace Bill Bowen, who recently resigned. Howard said that he has asked ASCLA manager, Bobby Goodin, for recommendations.
The board approved the renewal of the county’s General Liability Policy, in the amount of $272,811. Twomey stated that correctional officers in the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office have recently received safety training in conjunction with the policy.
The board rejected a proposal to serve as the liable entity for the potential environmental impact associated with an Americus Housing Authority (AHA) project. A representative from the AHA had previously addressed the board, asking the county to assume responsibility for the environmental impact studies required to perform renovations on a number of properties in Andersonville and Plains.
The board discussed a capital project, proposed by Sumter County Fire and Rescue (SCFR) to build a training facility in Sumter County. The previous week, SCFR Chief, John Ekaitis, had informed the board that the funds were available in the proposed budget.
The board approved an informational letter to be sent to the Georgia Department of Transportation for disbursement of local maintenance and improvement grant funds in the amount of $155,000.
The board approved a memorandum of understanding between themselves and the Southwestern Circuit Felony Drug Court. At the work session, a week prior, the board spoke with Superior Court Judge James  Sizemore, who introduced them to the Drug Court’s newly-hired coordinator, David Edmonson. Sizemore stated that he would like to expand the program to include a mental health division and spoke of the court’s recent successes. Sizemore also stated that the program is offered at no cost to the county.
At the regular meeting, the board approved a renewal of the lease for the local Department of Human Services, Family and Children Services’ facilities in the amount of $28,195.73 monthly.
At the previous week’s work session, the board approved a rezoning request from Courtney and Virginia Moore for a conditional use daycare facility at Kingdom of Heaven Ministries, 132 Upper River Road.
The board approved an agreement to house a certain number of state inmates at the Sumter County Correctional Institute and to set guidelines for reporting misconduct among county employees at the institute.
Col. Bryant also addressed the board, asking for approval of a budget amendment to reflect an error in the billing of the Sumter County School System for the provision of school resource officers. Bryant also asked the board to approve a new contract for the provision of school resource officers to the school system that would include funding for uniform replacements and gas mileage. The request was approved.